“Ready Player One” is being developed into a Steven Spielberg-directed movie, has inhabited the New York Times Best Sellers list since its 2011 release, and earned the author a seven-figure book deal. It takes place in the 2040s when the creator of a massive online video game/virtual world (the “OASIS”) dies and leaves his $240 billion fortune to the first OASIS user who can solve clues based on 1980s pop culture references to find the treasure in-game. Christa Stephens, Lauren Lola, and loudlysilent share their thoughts after reading “RPO”:
Generally speaking, this book was much darker than I was expecting. I was ill-prepared for the harsh realities of a post-energy-crisis world and the experience of growing up in such a world for a kid like Wade. So, let that be lesson one: this book is NOT a light & fluffy read. Still, I absolutely loved it and have already forced it upon 4 of my friends/family members.
I’ve always been a fan of adventure/quest-type narratives (even better if you throw in a conspiracy theory), so there was no doubt in my mind that I would enjoy “Ready Player One”. What surprises me is how relatable it was, even as a person who possesses minimal 1980s pop culture or video game trivia knowledge; because, while the references are many, they do not draw the focus from the primary themes of the story.
Wade is a kid who was dealt a crappy hand in life, born in a time when pretty much the whole world was dealt a crappy hand. He finds his escape in the virtual world of the OASIS and, ultimately, finds himself as he goes on a journey to find Halliday’s Easter Egg.
The world-building, character-building, and overall character development is spot-on in this novel. I found myself immediately invested in the characters’ story arcs and the future of the OASIS. The narrative is action-packed, with intricately woven schemes & puzzles leading right up to the finale. It’s a wild ride and is now one of my favorite novels to recommend to anyone looking for a unique reading experience.
In the beginning, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into when first starting off “Ready Player One,” for it almost immediately disclosed yet another bleak outlook into the future where technology still miraculously advances, like many other sci-fi young adult novels on the market nowadays. But then the core story kicked in, where video gaming, 80s pop culture, and a hero to root for meshed into one, and from there I found myself dwelling into a story that was unique, fast paced, and original.
This novel is perfect for the nerdiest of video game nerds, and if you’re not already one, then you’ll have the urge to become one. One will find a comforting familiarity with avatars and super powers, as well as the thrill of finding secret temples and collecting treasures as one advances as they go along. Puzzles and adrenaline-induced battles come along as they do in a video game, as the race is on for monetary gains beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.
At the same time though, the novel also touches on the side effects of video games and online life; on how everything is not always what it seems. Sometimes, real life — as sickening as it may be — needs to kick in, for life spent in a utopia is not entirely a healthy thing. One needs a balance between real life and the fantasy to understand the value of both — and that is something that our hero Wade learns with time.
I enjoyed “Ready Player One” very much and it is definitely a novel that I will read again one day. At the same time, it also serves as a firm reminder regarding why I actively avoid video games… because if I gave in, I’d probably become an addict.
There’s a part in “RPO” where while Wade, who goes by the avatar “Parzival,” is searching for the treasure in the OASIS, his real-life self is living alone in an apartment. His life is in danger, so he literally never leaves the apartment: he gets food and toiletries delivered, his door is reinforced with security protocols, and he uses an exercise simulation for his daily workout. This was one of my favorite parts of the book: this dichotomy between his very active, highly visible online life, and his very elusive, isolated real-life existence.
Wade’s experience of the OASIS as where his primary relationships and daily events are resonated with me: there’s something attractive about living in a virtual world where more things are possible, and more things can be safe. I think many of my writer/academic/creative/artist friends on Twitter who are introverted offline can relate: if I could never leave my room, but have a fulfilling life without being harassed on the street, or enduring microaggressions or racism at the mall, or sitting through anxiety-inducing social situations, would I? It’s tempting. Do some of my friends feel safer working in a retail environment where they’re in physical proximity to threatening people, or online where they can avoid, mute, and draft replies?
The full-immersion feel of the OASIS is what really hooked me about “RPO,” and it’s one of very few books where the setting feels just as alive and kinetic, maybe even more so, than the characters. You really feel like you’re in an 1980s bowling alley arcade with Parzival and Art3mis, or a wood-paneled basement den with Parzival and Aech. “RPO” made me think less about the shortcomings of life online than the possibilities: Parzival and Aech became best friends over a mutual fandom of the most arcane 1980s pop culture minutiae, and who wouldn’t want a friendship like theirs?